As athletics fans across the country woke up barely believing what they’d witnessed the night before, the Ramblas turned their attention to the weather in the hope of some play away at well-to-do rivals HSBC.
Skipper Stocks was faced with a last-minute selection worry, as Steve Cleverley and Bradley Scoates were forced out of the reckoning just hours before the game. Thankfully, Ash Harriss and Lewis Barham were available to step into the breach – the latter making his Ramblas debut.
After what can only be called unnecessary fannying about, the home captain finally agreed that the pitch was playable. Covers off, the toss was won by Cap’n Stocks who opted to let his bowlers loose first.
Opening up from the tennis courts end was Mark Loughlin who was again in deadly form and quickly among the wickets, crashing one into the pads of the left-handed opener. The fielding from the visitors was back to its best, with new stumpsman Sam Ford producing the goods and some excellent stops in the field throughout by Laurie Stocks, Ian Dacre and Felipe Sanchez-Rodriguez.
Coming in from the football ground end was Dacre who was swinging it both ways (the ball, that is) and was again working well in tandem with M. Loughlin. The latter soon struck again, splicing the stumps with another cracking delivery, before Dacre got in on the action with one that pitched outside off and crashed into middle stump.
The dangerous bowling continued to cause problems, and the fielding side were left scratching their heads as a strong run-out shout wasn’t given. More consternation followed for the Ramblas as new boy Barham had two or three good LBW shouts turned away before being left in disbelief – with his team-mates – as what appeared to be an outside edge was comfortably snaffled by wicket-keeper Ford. Alas, no movement from umpire or batsman meant his sterling efforts went unrewarded.
Banking on Loughlin
Skipper Stocks then made a bold call, leaving M. Loughlin on to bowl his eight overs off the reel, knowing the next wicket would be all important. The bowler stepped up to the plate, showing no signs of fatigue as he continued to tease the batsmen, even responding to the call “Don’t worry about him not having a helmet; that’s his decision” by promptly bowling a skyer straight at the batter’s bonce (albeit accidentally). His persistence eventually paid off, again rearranging the timber for his third wicket of the day.
Enjoying a well-earned rest, M. Loughlin tagged in Geoff Parrett to take over from the tennis court end, and with his very first ball drew an ambitious shot from the batsman which was safely pouched in the deep by Harriss. Parrett’s spell was a magical one, too, offering subtle variations and not allowing the batsmen to settle. Meanwhile, from the other end, Sanchez-Rodriguez entered the fray, with his left-arm deliveries forcing the batsmen to work hard as they tried to squeeze every run available.
The bowling partnership proved successful, with Parrett taking his second scalp of the day, as one attack too many cost the batsman his wicket.
Given the plethora of bowling options at his disposal, the skipper next turned to Harriss who put in a two-over burst and was unlucky not to claim his own victim, as the now increasingly sieve-like hands of Chris Thomas put a simple chance down. The chance for redemption was soon up for Thomas, though, as he took over bowling from the tennis courts end and, despite some very ‘enthusiastic’ appealing, ended a tight three-over spell wicketless.
With Barham throwing down a speedy final over for no reward, the hosts ended up on 148 for 6 from their 35 overs. Every bowler stepped up to the plate, ably backed up by their field, but the experienced batting line-up had expertly turned the balls for a steady stream of singles. That said, if Harriss and Stocks could set a strong foundation, the Ramblas might have a sniff…
Bat to reality
After an agreed swift turnaround (the host’s clearly having as much faith in their teas as the visitors), Skipper Stocks and Harriss headed out in search of the 149 runs needed to claim victory.
The bowling from HSBC, as expected, was on a consistent line and length, leaving the opening pair to carefully pick and choose their scoring shots. Alas, slow and steady is not something Harriss can get on board with for too long, and an attacking shot led to him being bowled.
In search of a score for his new side, Ford came in at number three and, with his captain, rarely looked in danger. Alas, the runs had all but dried up, as the pair went along at two runs an over, before Ford succumbed. Joining his brother at the crease, L. Stocks knew that it was a case of going down swinging, with the overs running out for the Ramblas to reach their target. The new incumbent at the crease got off to a good start with a streaky four, before seeing his captain and younger brother fall as he too looked to up the run rate.
Vice-captain Cooper was next
on the plank – sorry, into bat – very much seeking his first score of the season. And he looked in good nick on his way to an unbeaten 10.
Alas, at the other end, it was a case of flash hard or go home. First, L. Stocks was run out looking for a single that never was, then M. Loughlin got caught at mid-on as he sought boundaries to drag the Ramblas towards respectability. Parrett too enjoyed a short spell at the crease, while Thomas followed with a quick-fire six before failing to get hold of one and looping a soft catch back to the bowler.
With just an over left, Barham came in and flashed a brilliant four, but it was all in vain as the Ramblas limped home to 81 for 7 from their innings.
It was the visitors’ fourth trip to the HSBC ground, and while the setting has rarely been bettered on their travels (and the matches between the two rarely been as competitive), murmurings amongst the Ramblas were that they’d be in no rush to return.
On the pitch, every Rambla (yes, that is the singular…) contributed in one way or another, but the harsh truth was that the hosts were just too good – although a bit more confidence with the bat may have seen them get nearer to their target.
Man of the Match: Going over the Ramblas match reports it may seem like we’re a one-man team, as this week the award can only really go to Mark Loughlin. There’s a danger of choosing someone else just for the sake of variety, and there were indeed some very good performances from the likes of Dacre, Barham and Parrett, but Mark’s stellar eight-over opening spell was glorious to witness, with no let-up in pace or accuracy.